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Creator / Vincent Price

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"A man who limits his interests limits his life."

Vincent Leonard Price Jr. (May 27, 1911 — October 25, 1993) was an American actor from St. Louis, Missouri, best remembered for his villainous roles in such horror classics as House of Wax, House on Haunted Hill, The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes. He possessed a very distinctive voice and the most twirlable mustache you ever saw on a living person.

He also provided the creepy narrator voice and Evil Laugh in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and at the end Alice Cooper's "Devil's Food" to introduce "Black Widow". On the 1960s Batman TV series, he had a semi-recurring role as the world's greatest criminal mind, Egghead, notable as one of only two villains on the show (the other being King Tut) to deduce Bruce Wayne's secret identity. He also voiced the Diabolical Mastermind of The Great Mouse Detective, Professor Ratigan (which he would later say was one of his favourite roles). In addition, in 1971 he spent a few days in Canada doing segments for that goofy mainstay of Canadian kids' TV, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, with his segments being distributed among the series' impressive 130-episode run. In the 1970s Price also lent his face and name to a number of novelty products, such as a kit that allowed children to create their own shrunken heads (using only apples, however) which was advertised in comic books throughout that decade.

With the possible exceptions of Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, Price has the most homaged and imitated voice when it comes to evil cartoon characters. Hell, he even lent his own voice to some of those homages: he appeared in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo as Vincent van Ghoul and narrated Tim Burton's animated short film Vincent. His other television credits include hosting the 1980s PBS series Mystery! and the 1950s Game Show turned interview show ESP.

Price was good friends with the two great Hammer Horror actors, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and starred alongside both of them in various films. Strangely enough, Lee and Price had the same birthday (27 May), and Cushing's birthday was the day before theirs.note  One of his closest friends was the above mentioned Peter Lorre, whose eulogy Price read at his funeral.

An extremely progressive person for his time, he publicly denounced racial and religious intolerance as early as 1950, and even got a position on the Indian Arts and Crafts Board under the Eisenhower administration (which he claimed came as a surprise to him, considering he was a Democrat). He immediately came out in support of his daughter when she admitted she was a lesbian, going so far as to decry openly homophobic political figures, like Anita Bryant (and if his daughter is to be believed, this is likely in part due to him having queer tendencies himself).

He was also a great lover of fine art and amassed an impressive personal collection. He was so well-regarded within art circles that Sears-Roebuck asked him to build a catalog the company could sell to everyday Americans. Essentially given a blank check, he purchased thousands of pieces, including original works from names such as Rembrant, Chagall, and Picasso, that became available for purchase at very affordable prices, helping bring fine art to the masses. However, this collaboration only lasted around a decade because art prices caught fire and Price was unwilling to put his name to a product that could only be afforded by the elite.

Highly eccentric, he considered his guest appearance on The Muppet Show a "tremendous honour" (before the show really became a worldwide sensation), in a similar manner to how major musical artists know they've "made it" when "Weird Al" Yankovic parodies their songs.

In his later years, Price struggled with both chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Parkinson's disease, which made acting difficult for him. He eventually passed away from complications related to lung cancer in 1993, at the age of 82.

Works on TV Tropes:



Tropes present in Vincent Price's works:

  • Actor Allusion: Narrated Tim Burton's short film Vincent, about a young boy named Vincent Malloy who wanted to be "just like Vincent Price."
  • Affably Evil: Many of his roles. His characters are evil but they also have impeccable manners and he practically oozes charisma every time he's on screen, making them nearly impossible not to like.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: Accepted the role of Professor Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective, simply because he had always wanted to voice a villain in a Disney movie. He would even go on to call it one of his favorite roles.
    • In fact, he said in an interview around the time of the film's release, "If anybody but Disney had asked me [to audition for the role], I would have been offended."
  • Black Comedy: Ladies and gentlemen, "How To Cook A Small Boy."
  • Classically-Trained Extra: Price was trained in classical theater, did a stint with Orson Welles' Mercury Theater company before moving into films and performed a one-man theater show as Oscar Wilde later in his career. He loved Theatre of Blood for giving him the chance to perform Shakespeare, albeit while murdering his costars!
  • Creator's Favorite: invoked Price has gone on record saying that playing Professor Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective was one of his all time favorite roles, and that he considered his performance in Witchfinder General to be one of his best. He was also very fond of his performance as James Reavis in The Baron of Arizona.
  • The Danza: As Vincent van Ghoul in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo.
  • Driven to Madness: A few of his characters are led into insanity by various tragic circumstances.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Fairly frequently.
    • In some films when he was too young to actually have grey hair his hair was dyed grey to portray characters such as Cardinal Richelieu, or the much older than Price himself was at the time Valdemar in Tales of Terror.
    • He lost weight for the war film The Eve Of St Mark, gained weight to portray a heavyset priest in The Keys Of The Kingdom, then had to lose that weight again and some more to play a drug addict in Dragonwyck.
    • For House of Usher he both lost weight and bleached his hair (along with pale makeup, and shaving off his usual moustache) to portray the tragic, sickly-looking and possibly albino Roderick Usher; he stated that his intention was to transform himself into a figure as unearthly looking as Conrad Veidt in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and to appear as if he'd never been outside in the sun.
  • Evil Is Bigger: He stood 6' 4" (195 cm), so this trope helped secure his reputation in horror films.
  • Evil Is Hammy: His theatrics as villains are the main reason to watch his films. Especially in Theatre of Blood where he played a Giftedly Bad Shakespearean actor who murders critics. (Witchfinder General is a significant exception here.)
  • Evil Laugh: One of the undisputed masters of this trope, his cackling is so distinctive that when Phantom Manor initially replaced his narration track with a fully French-language one, they couldn't bear to give up his villainous laughter.
    • "Thriller" ends with a pretty epic one from Price, too.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: His low, almost purring vocals were a major part of his image and he was very skilled at putting them to terrifying use.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Most of his roles with some even approaching a genuine Affably Evil charm, but not always. Ratigan is the biggest example, at least to Disney fans. Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General on the other hand has only the thinnest veneer of manners, and was sufficiently sadistic to seriously disturb Price and make him regret agreeing to do the role.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
    • His character in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo is pretty much just Price playing himself with magical powers.
    • When acting, Price was known to do exaggerated Shakespearean gesticulation. He also did it when he voiced The Great Mouse Detective's Big Bad, Prof. Ratigan (his favorite role), so the animators sketched him during voice-over sessions and animated the poses into Ratigan.
  • Large Ham:
    • Though he was capable of nuance, Price's characters tended to be larger than life, but thankfully not cheesy.
    • Usually not cheesy. In Theatre of Blood, he took the cheese to eleven, and for good reason.
    • In the 1951 His Kind of Woman, Price co-starred with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell, playing an Errol Flynn-style matinee idol who, when he helps Bob fight mobsters, gets a huge rush from real-life peril and leaps into the fray loudly spouting Shakespeare. Ham and cheese with plenty of relish.
    • Professor Ratigan lives this trope until the climax, in which he turns into a vicious rat who tries killing the protagonist by knocking him from Big Ben only to fall himself.
    • Zigzag of The Thief And The Cobbler, being the comedic villain of the film, chews the scenery in nearly every shot he's present, along with Rhyming On A Dime.
  • Lean and Mean: His lithe build was a recognizable part of his image.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Tended to play villainous roles, but was a generally nice guy in his personal life.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: When Sesame Street patterned the "Vincent Twice, Vincent Twice" Muppet on his physical features, he was ecstatic and considered it a great honor to have his likeness made into a Muppet.
    • Marvel superhero Doctor Strange (Stephen Vincent Strange) is based on Vincent Price's appearance.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Price was born in St. Louis and trained for the stage in London; he varied the resulting Mid-Atlantic accent only a bit to play characters from all over the United States and England.
  • One for the Money; One for the Art: Although he sometimes took roles to finance his support of the arts, he always made a point of having fun even when in bad movies.
  • Playing Against Type: For a guy who is best remembered for playing campy, hammy villains, he had quite a hefty number of these:
    • The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo: He invokes Dark Is Not Evil as Vincent Van Ghoul, a fittingly creepy, yet charming warlock drawn to look like himself that's ultimately heroic with the end goal of helping Scooby and his friends re-capture the 13 Ghosts that escaped from the Demon Chest.
    • His final live-action appearance as the Inventor in Edward Scissorhands— a Mad Scientist who lives in the stereotypical Gothic castle and has a creation, but is the most kindly and loving person you could ever meet. Extremely memorable and touching, since it is probably the role most like his real self.
    • The Tingler builds him up as the Villain Protagonist only to have him ultimately turn out to be a pretty okay guy
    • House on Haunted Hill has the twist ending that he was the intended victim all along.
    • Perhaps most amusingly, in The Raven, he played an overdramatic and darkly-styled but heroic Camp Straight magician.
    • In The Last Man on Earth, he was a normal man struggling to survive in a world overrun by zombie-like vampires.
    • In The Pit and the Pendulum he plays a tragic character who is driven insane by his wife and becomes the villain at the movie's climax.
    • To a degree in Witchfinder General; he's a villain, like most of his famous roles, but he's a genuinely sadistic and psychopathic villain instead of a campy, panto one.
    • In The Whales of August (1987), he plays a kindly, gentle Impoverished Patrician who romances Lillian Gish.
    • In His Kind of Woman, he's a foppish actor modeled after Errol Flynn.
    • In the original The Fly he's a perfectly nice guy just trying to understand what terrible fate has befallen his brother.
    • An Early-Installment Weirdness case was his sympathetic portrayal of Mormonism founder Joseph Smith in 1940's Brigham Young.
  • Pungeon Master: As villain Egghead in the '60s Batman (1966) show. This character used an absolutely egg-scrutiating number of puns that is only rivaled by Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze's cold/winter-related puns in Batman & Robin.
  • Villain Protagonist: Played a good number of these.
  • What Could Have Been: Tim Burton, his late-in-life friend, was in the early stages of a documentary about him called Conversations With Vincent when he passed away.